By Nazrul Islam
Dhaka – A senior UN official has termed ‘desperate’ the situation in southeastern Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees poured in fleeing ethnic violence in neighbouring Myanmar.
Head of the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who visited the makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar, on Monday also called on international community to step up efforts for aid delivery for the stateless people.
“Their situation remains desperate, and we risk a dramatic deterioration if aid is not rapidly stepped up,” Grandi, told reporters in Dhaka after his two-day visit to refugee sites, where the persecuted Rohingya Muslims are dire need of shelter, food, medicine and other basic amenities.
An estimated 436,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh after army in Buddhist-majority Myanmar launched clampdown on suspected Rohingya insurgents blamed for attacking security posts in Rakhine state on August 25.
The civilians who crossed the border say the army and their Buddhist cohorts killed many Muslims, burned down their homes and drove away from Rakhine.
Grandi came to Bangladesh to see the ground reality and assess the emergency need for the largest ever influx of refugees. He said the aid agencies were still assessing the need. It will be a daunting task to handle the large number of people in a small place.
He said relief works are in progress, but many people are there who did not receive enough to food. They are in dire need of shelter. “Hygiene and sanitation is one of the urgent needs. Epidemic could break out if the situation is not addressed properly,” he said.
The UN agency chief thanked Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for opening up the border for the refugees. He also thanked the Bangladeshi people for their generosity to host the large number of people.
He also urged the international community to consider the needs of the local communities those who are under pressure in terms of resources and other amenities to host the refugees.
Grandi said he met a number of people whose tales are very harrowing. “They are deeply traumatized as they were subjected to violence before they embarked the journey for Bangladesh.”
Many women including girls and children faced physical and sexual violence, intimidation and other forms of brutality that have caused the flight of so many people, he said.
Despite having found refuge in Bangladesh, they are still exposed to enormous hardship, he said.
Grandi called upon Myanmar to stop violence and allow humanitarian agencies to work in Rakhine state asking for an atmosphere to create so that those who flee violence can return to their homes.
“The origin of the crisis and the solution of this crisis both lie in Myanmar,” he said.